This song is as significant a piece in the third recueil
as is Lydia
, by the same poet, in the first. Leconte de Lisle’s ode (Poèmes et poésies
) was already thirty-five years old, but the composer makes it sound almost as fresh as the day it was written. He clearly admired the gardener in this Parnasse whose roses from Isfahan and Lahore he also set. This prize-winning specimen however is from Delos, and it inspires Fauré to a very personal response; he relaxes the poet’s majestic and statuesque pose (très 1855) with music that remains fresh and natural, despite the mythological references. There are no separate strophes in this poem, and the composer only allows himself a brief piano interlude before the fourteenth line. Apart from this respite, voice and piano flower together in a texture that, if not exactly overgrown, signifies profusion and effulgence: this is no single rose but an overgrown hillside where the passer-by is overwhelmed by the flowers’ scent. Constantly changing harmonies (on a row of descending basses with mixolydian colourings) are meant to delight but, as in La bonne chanson
, the ear is in danger of being unsettled by too much diversity; nevertheless, the listener’s attention is held by the freshness and impetus of the music. The apotheosis-like final page incorporates the grandeur of Zeus without obliterating the slender grace of the flower. The postlude, like that for Schubert’s Ganymed
, restores classical poise in the wake of heavenly upheaval.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2005